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Infographics Virus of the Week

West Nile Virus: Virus of the Week

This week on virus of the week is West Nile Virus, another single stranded RNA virus belonging to the flavivirus family! Learn more about other dengue and tick-bourne encephalitis virus!



  • WNV was first isolated from a febrile patient from the West Nile district of Northern Uganda in 1937, (Smithburn et al., 1940).
  • Following naming conventions of the time it was called WNV.

Hosts: What carries WNV?

  • Natural hosts of WNV are mosquitoes and birds, (Jerzak et al., 2005).
  • Culex mosquitoes are particularly important for WNV transmission into humans!
  • Humans are ‘dead end hosts’ – meaning we don’t transmit back to mosquitoes.

Cell Tropism: Which cells can WNV infect?

Vector: What transmits WNV to humans?

  • Culex mosquitoes transmit to humans.
  • This includes: Culex pipiens, C. restuans, C. salinarius, C. quinquefasciatus, C. nigripalpus, C. erraticus and C. tarsalis.

Pathology: What does it do to us?

  • 80 % of infections are asymptomatic.
  • The majority of symptomatic patients experience a weeklong fever.
  • West Nile neuroinvasive disease (WNND) occurs in less than 1 % of infections.

It describes multiple syndromes:

  • West Nile meningitis (WNM)
  • West Nile encephalitis (WNE)
  • West Nile poliomyelitis (WNP)

Did you know?

Men are more likely to experience WNND!


  • Brown, A. N., Kent, K. A., Bennett, C. J., & Bernard, K. A. (2007). Tissue tropism and neuroinvasion of West Nile virus do not differ for two mouse strains with different survival rates. Virology, 368(2),422–430.
  • Byas, A. D., & Ebel, G. D. (2020). Comparative pathology of West Nile Virus in humans and non-human animals. Pathogens, 9(1).
  • Jerzak, G., Bernard, K. A., Kramer, L. D., & Ebel, G. D. (2005). Genetic variation in West Nile virus from naturally infected mosquitoes and birds suggests quasispecies structure and strong purifying selection. The Journal of General Virology, 86(Pt 8), 2175–2183.
  • Kilpatrick, A. M., LaDeau, S. L., & Marra, P. P. (2007). Ecology of West Nile Virus Transmission and Its Impact on Birds in the Western Hemisphere. The Auk, 124(4), 1121–1136.
  • Petersen, L. R., Brault, A. C., & Nasci, R. S. (2013). West Nile virus: review of the literature. JAMA, 310(3), 308–315.
  • Smithburn, K. C., Hughes, T. P., & Burke, A. (1940). A neurotropic virus isolated from the blood of a native of Uganda. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine, 20, 471–497.